What is a torn disc?

Torn Disc

Also known as a ruptured, herniated or slipped disc, a torn disc is a condition in which the outer layer of one of the intervertebral discs that cushion vertebrae in the spine develops a tear. In some cases, this rupture allows the jelly-like inner core of that disc to leak out.

Symptoms of a torn disc include:

  • Pain in the neck or back
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or “pins and needles” sensation
  • Muscle cramping or spasms

The area of the body in which symptoms manifest themselves depends on the location of the torn disc. For example, a torn disc in the lumbar (lower) spine, which includes the L1 to L5 vertebrae, might result in symptoms experienced in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. These symptoms are possible because the nerve roots in the lumbar spine are responsible for transmitting signals to the lower extremities, and a disc that tears near those nerve roots could pinch them, causing discomfort.

Causes of a torn disc

The causes of a torn disc are varied, but the most common include:

  • Sports injury – Even seemingly harmless motions such as running or swinging a golf club can wear on spinal discs, weakening them over time and making them more likely to tear. Rough sports like rugby and football can exacerbate this wear and tear.
  • Car accident – During a physically traumatic event such as an auto accident, the spine can be impacted to the point that spinal discs are stretched beyond capacity, and this pressure can be severe enough to make even a healthy disc rupture.
  • Age-related degeneration – As we get older, the spinal discs begin to lose water and become more brittle, making them more prone to cracking and splitting.

Treatments for a torn disc

If you suspect that you have a torn disc, then it’s important to see a physician to obtain a proper diagnosis and begin a treatment regimen. Although in most cases a torn disc simply requires time to heal, there are a number of ways to help alleviate the symptoms caused by it and continue to live a happy life while recovering. Conservative treatments for a torn disc include:

  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatories
  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Stretching
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Steroid injections

For more information on torn disc symptoms and treatments, including the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. We’ll review your MRI or CT scan to determine your eligibility for one of our outpatient procedures.